The Cell C Sharks earned their first win in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship with a commanding 27-13 round three victory over Ospreys in Swansea on Friday evening.
It was a dominant effort from the Cell C Sharks, forcing mistakes from their hosts with their suffocating pressure and the Welsh side finding themselves unable to release it.
The match started out at a high pace, the Cell C Sharks throwing some real tempo into their attack and putting the home side under pressure, but it was Ospreys who struck first blood, converting an early penalty to take a 3-nil lead.
There was another blow when Thaakir Abrahams had to leave the field injured within the opening 10 minutes and with a flurry of penalties conceded, it wasn’t the start the Durban side wanted.
A second penalty after the 15 minute mark for a technical infringement at the lineout took the home side into a 6 point lead, but Boeta Chamberlain knocked over a deft drop-goal from penalty advantage a few moments later after Ruan Pienaar took a quick tap penalty awarded at the breakdown.
Drop-goals are rare enough, but Chamberlain added a second to equalise matters on the 25 minute mark following an enterprising and highly energetic effort on attack before sending the long range effort through the posts.
Ospreys probably enjoyed the majority of possession in the closing minutes of the half, but couldn’t penetrate some stout defence and with their hands letting them down, they conceded a number of scrums which halted their momentum.
They chased a final score but the rewards never came and at half-time, the score was deadlocked at 6-all.
The second half started on an exciting note, some sublime play featuring a well-executed grubber through the defence which Hyron Andrew ran on to, made the initial break before offloading in the tackle to a speeding Jeremy Ward who ran the perfect line to score untouched. Pienaar added the extras for a 13-6 lead within the opening two minutes of the half.
With Ospreys’ execution on attack continuing to stymie their efforts, they battled to make their opportunities count, but they were up against an energetic defensive system that limited what they could do with the ball.
A scrum penalty for the Cell C Sharks, their second of the game, underlined their dominance and growing confidence. So too the battle for territory with the Ospreys the first to make a mistake when the aerial battle ensued just shy of the start of the final quarter, allowing the Cell C Sharks to continue to exert pressure from their Welsh opponents.
Marnus Potgieter added the second try of the game after Ospreys had knocked the ball on from a long kick into their 22, the scrum was solid and the backline spread the ball wide for the flying wing to get his name on the scoreboard to set up a commanding 12 point lead with 20 minutes of the game remaining.
With Boeta Chamberlain revelling in amount of space he was finding, his man of the match performance was underlined by the next score, forcing a drop-out from Ospreys from behind their line and with no-one around him, found the space and time to knock over his third drop-goal for a 100% success record with that scoring option and a 21-6 lead.
A Ruan Pienaar penalty pushed his side a further three points ahead as the game worked its way towards the final 10 minutes. With 15 handling errors to eight, Ospreys were never able to establish any meaningful continuity on attack and conceding more scrum penalties than the Cell C Sharks also halted their momentum.
After stringing through a multi-phase attack that promised to bring reward, a long pass missed the man on the outside and instead went harmlessly into touch, underlining just how frustrated they were becoming.
They did finally make good on their efforts, a series of pick-and-drives from the forwards heralding their first try of the match, the conversion cutting the lead to 24-13 with five minutes remaining.
Ruan Pienaar added another penalty after Ospreys had failed to exit their 22 with any kind of authority and although the result had been wrapped up much earlier, it simply underlined what a dominant and comprehensive performance the Cell C Sharks had delivered, consigning the Welsh side to their first defeat of the tournament.